Shooting with the Exa SLR

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by dave_g|1, Jul 25, 2011.

  1. I've been shooting with a Praktiflex FX for years so things like fiddly knob winds, mirror blackout, and pre-set lenses seem pretty natural to me - I found shooting with the little Exa to be quite enjoyable and it is a fun camera to handle... once you stop trying to push the non-existent shutter button on the right side of the camera body.
    Here it is fitted with a Sigma Widemax 28mm lens from an obviously later era. It has an auto aperture feature which is obviously the greatest thing ever for quick shooting. I actually got the wide angle for the Exa because I had gone to a comic convention and thought it'd be great to have a wide angle on the Exa to get candid shots of people in costumes. The exa is very quiet because it lacks a focal plane shutter and instant mirror return. Also it is very small and can be used with a waist level finder, as picture above. So it seems like a good choice for candid photography.
    Here it is with the standard Meritar 50mm f2.9 lens. Pre-set, none of that complicated auto diaphragm nonsense. Also showing a late model prism finder (with interchangeable screens!).
    I've read a lot of guff about the Meritar, but I've found it be a pleasant vintage lens. It is slightly soft, and soft in contrast, and prone to flare (as all triplets seem to be) - but it gives a pleasing "natural" quality to the images, and the "boke" produced at intermediate apertures is quite smooth and pleasing too.
    Anyway general random notes for those of you who have not seen one before:
    *The Exa uses a metal sector shutter, sometimes refered to as a barrel shutter. So the speeds are limited to 1/25 to 1/150 +B. So having a fast lens which stops down to f22 is a good idea.
    *Like the Exaktas of the time there is neither an internally operated auto-diaphragm for the lenses, nor an instant mirror return.
    *The worst part though is the non-self-reseting exposure counter. Which is awkwardly located on the camera in such a way as to be nearly impossible to reset - and you practically have to grind the prints off your finger tips to get it to change.
    *Mirror slap is a big problem that is rarely mentioned with the Exa. The mirror itself forms part of the shutter. When the mirror begins to go up, the exposure starts immediately. So when the mirror slaps, the exposure is right in the middle of taking place. You have to have a good grip or a tripod to get sharp pictures. I made a short video that shows how the shutter works in part: Also I ramble about the praktiflex for a little while, in case anybody is still further curious.
    Anyway photos in the next post.
  2. Some shots from the Austin Botanical Gardens taken with the Meritar. Mostly at f8 and f5.6
  3. [​IMG]
    ^^^This one is a slight crop^^^ This turtle let me get close as about 3' away, but I cropped a little tighter still.
  4. [​IMG]
    And here is a crop to exhibit the "boke" of the Meritar at f5.6 - I think it is very nice. In the center it is especially smooth, but even at the edges there is only the slightest bright lining of highlights, and no noticeable double lining. It also has a very slight swirl, but not too distracting at this aperture.
    Wide open the Meritar produces a very bizarre effect on the out of focus areas where everything looks "smeared" - which I find rather distracting and unnatural looking. I think it gives the smoothest look at f5.6
  5. And a couple with with the Sigma Widemax 28mm lens.
    This is also a very pleasant lens, in my opinion, especially for a wide-angle.
    That's all for now. I had a lot of fun shooting these two rolls, and plan on using it a lot more in the future. Would love to add a long lens to the arsenal, but exakta lens prices seem to have been on the high side on ebay recently.
  6. Exa is a sort of "limited" Exakta, meant as a beginner's route into the full Exakta system. Despite its limitation on the speeds available, it will take most (not quite all) wide to medium telephoto Exakta lenses. That 'weird' position for the shutter release, is original to the first Exaktas, so it is all the other cameras that are "different".
    The position of the shutter release also makes possible an external automatic aperture link of lenses made for the Exakta proper. Even the last Exaktas kept a left-side link for that reason, even when they also had a shutter release on the right side.
    Nice work with the camera.
  7. As I posted a while ago - the EXA (1a) was my first 'proper' serious camera. I loved the flip up viewfinder which allowed you to turn the camera upside down and get shots over peoples heads. Also of course the crazy push button shutter.
  8. Another advantage with the Exa for candid photography is the nearly silent shutter at 1/25. About as quiet as I have ever experienced. The other speeds are not as quite but 1/25 is just a wisper. My Exa was in a lot rougher shape and, trying to support too many systems, I sold it last year.
  9. Great shots. I've always wanted to see a post on the Exa.
  10. I owned and used Exaktas and Exas. I preferred the Exa as being less prone to failure based on it's absolute simplicity of manufacture and use. It is interesting to note that the Pilot 6x6 single lens reflex that uses 120 film has a very similar shutter what I call a mirror shutter and the Pilot has removable lens but only has a fixed waist level finder. All of these cameras were in my collection until I started a continuing process of downsizing and thinning out the cameras that I don't use anymore. By the way I have a small permanent collection of my favorites which I try to use and rotate on a regular basis. I use digital(as I employed Polaroid back in the day) but for fun the film cameras are my joy.
  11. Nice to see these quirky old cameras still producing good images - in the right hands. Botanical gardens are made for photography.
  12. Fine series of photographs, Dave. I've been eyeing the Exas which crop up from time to time on our local auctions, but haven't yet taken the plunge. Your post is persuasive...
  13. Thanks for the responses!
    Rick, if you can live with the quirks of early SLRs, then the Exa can be a lot of fun. It is a slow camera to use though, especially without auto lenses. But with a 1/150th top shutter speed it's not as though you're going to be shooting any fast action anyway. Not a camera for "decisive moment" types! But I highly recommend it anyway.
  14. I just love the look of the Sigma Widemax on the little Exa.. looks great! I have a later 1a, I would prefer one of these beautiful earlier models. I have found the waist level finder great, but I realized that I was used to the TLRs with slower lenses so when I I put on a 2,8 lens I was blown away at how bright the finder could be. I like the results you got and like someone else said.. shows what quirky little cameras can do ! Thanks for the link to the shutter description! Enjoyed that!
  15. Oh yes, it is quite amusing to put such a big lens on such a tiny camera.
    On the subject of WLFs - putting a 1.8 lens on my praktiflex, the viewfinder is practically bright as day! Much fun using fast lenses on small waist level finders.
    Also the Exakta WLF is interesting:
    The ground-glass and condenser are one piece of thick glass about 2cm deep. This has the effect of magnifying the viewfinder image so that it is rather larger than the actual negative size. This is great for actually focusing and composing without having to use the swing out loupe. The only downside to this design is that you have to view ground-glass dead on or else the image becomes very dim.
    The Praktiflex on the right shows a normally sized viewfinder image. The condenser and screen are still one piece, but of a conventional thickness, the viewfinder image is basically the same size as the actual negative.
  16. Nice video, Dave. It would be nice to see more of these on

    Yeah, I know it's tough to get out that movie camera, get the 8mm film processed (where?), have it converted to digital, and upload it to YouTube. But Dave did it, right?

    Or, maybe it shot the video on digital. ;-)

    By the way, you all know how the Exa got its name, right? It's half of an Exakta.
  17. In 1963, I, a high school freshman at the time, made a circuit of the Manhattan camera stores (THE Golden Age IMHO) to select a 35mm camera. Not surprisingly, there were some financial constraints on my ultimate choice.
    I stopped in at Peerless Camera (near Grand Central Station and before the merger with Willougby's) to see what they had to offer. In my price range, the offering was an EXA with an f2.8 lens. The price was $20 even (pre sales tax). In the middle of that Peerless store at the time was a pyramid, about five feet high, of AGFA "Clacks", available in unlimited quantity at 99 cents each.
    I avoided the siren song of the EXA and eventually purchased a "Robin 1.9" at Willoughby's (Taron Camera Company, actually manufactured by Petri) for about the same price. My decision was driven the compatibility of the Robin's leaf shutter with M3 flashbulbs, which was a big deal for me at the time. The Robin worked for a while then was replaced with a Leica IIIC and IIf( both from 32nd Street area shops) which I used for the next twenty years.
  18. By the way, just for the record, the "Praktiflex" in this case is an 1953-54 re-badged Praktica FX (Hummel Nr. 125) which, because of some sort of importing conflict in the USA, was called the "Praktiflex FX," (Hummel Nr. 126)--an echo of the earliest 35mm reflex cameras* from KW, before and just after WWII.
    *the Praktiflex proper (Hummel Nrs. ca 76-79) (e.g., )
  19. I like the sound the Exa shutter makes!
    But I don't like the results I get with the Meritar lens. I am trying to figure out which other lens series will mount on the Exa.
    Will all of the Exakta lenses fit?
    I read that the Topcon RE series would fit, so I bought one and it will NOT fit on the Exa. Has anyone found Topcon lenses that fit the Exa? Which series?
  20. John all Exakta lenses with the internal bayonet will physically fit on the Exa. However lenses over 105mm will vignette.
    The Tessar and Biotar are both easily obtainable and reasonably priced lenses if you happen to not like the Meritar. Even the Pancolar seems to be relatively cheap in the exa mount. I've heard good and bad things about the Westanar, and if you don't like the Meritar then steer clear of the Westar and Domiplan lenses (they are also both triplets).
    And none of the topcon auto lenses will work on any exakta mount camera to the best of knowledge. Only the early preset ones will. On the other hand I think pretty much any exakta mount lens will work on a topcon.
  21. Some of the early Mamiya [Sears Tower] and the Miranda [Exakta mount] lenses will also fit the Exa. Besides, almost all the lens makers, including Nikon and Canon used to make lenses for the Exakta/Exa. Exa's was a delightfully simple design. However, for Ihagee it entered the market at a stage of history with a hugely adverse handicap. And, it did not see much evolution in its design, though the brand lasted over 2 decades with small modifications, even to the point of trying out a vertical cloth shutter in the Exa 500 and the M42 thread mount in its last version, the EXA 1c. Nice work Dave G. Like to see more from this. I, recently, bought an old junked Exa and refurbished it. But I did not have to dismantle or get into the innards, at all. Everything worked fine after a little cleaning, smooth as new. Thanks, sp.
  22. Nice camera and shots there. All Exakta mount lenses will go on your Exa, and so will the Topcors etc. But I beleive there is a limit to around 100mm, as longer lenses cut off the image, or so I'm told.
    You could try for the CZJ Tessar, which you will find is a vast improvement on the Meritar, and the recessed front element means that flare is not a problem.
    BTW, the 58mm Biotar looks good too, makes the Exa really upmarket!
  23. Dave, great post - and I really, really enjoyed the little video. Never saw one of these in the flesh, and never knew how the curious little shutter design worked - it was very cool to have it explained and demonstrated.
  24. Thanks for the comments.
    Wendell that's a neat story, $20 would have been a bargain but I guess in 1963 the original model Exa would have been NOS, since they had come out with the 1/1a by then.
    I once had a Taron VL come to me in a box of assorted photo junk. Built in meter but the wind lever was broken. I'd be surprised if Petri built them for Taron since Petris are generally pretty robust.
  25. I also had a Topcon Super D and if memory serves me rightly, the Topcon lenses did not clear the knurled knob on the EXA/Exakta lens body mount. Removing(read defacing) the tiny knob allowed the Topcon lens to mount OK.
  26. Nice shots from the EXA! My very first SLR in 1974 was an Exa IIa, bought from Cambridge Camera in NYC. I learned basic photography with it in high school, and since I didn't know any better, thought it was the greatest thing. Of course, I didn't wear bifocals then, and a WLVF wasn't a problem, except for "portrait" shots. However, I have lots of negatives and some pretty decent Kodachrome slides from the 1970s that I shot with that camera.
  27. Dave;
    Beautiful images!!! I have an Exakta VX outfit with three lenses (Steinheil Quinaron Auto D, 55mm f/1.9, Stienheil Curtagon, 135mm f/4.5 and a 400mm, f/5.5 Goertz Telemegor). The camera sounds like a sewing machine and the lenses are extremely sharp (...the 400mm lens has its own tripod colar and looks very cool when mounted on the camera).
    Anyway, I'll try to post some images taken with the camera sometime soon.
    Best Regards--Joe Reitsma, Minneapolis, MN.

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